Winchester: The cathedral

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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, 'Winchester: The cathedral', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912) pp. 50-59. British History Online [accessed 27 May 2024].

. "Winchester: The cathedral", in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912) 50-59. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024,

. "Winchester: The cathedral", A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912). 50-59. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024,

In this section


The history of the Old Minster of Winchester, setting aside the legends of King Lucius, may be said to begin with the coming of St. Birinus in 635 and his conversion to Christianity of King Kynegils. Birinus having made his head-quarters at Dorchester (Oxon), the bishopric of Wessex was administered from thence till his fourth successor Hedda transferred his seat to Winchester, to the church which, as tradition records, Kynegils had founded. The design of this church can only be left to conjecture, but Wolstan in his poem on St. Swithun (fn. 1) mentions a tower, apparently a gateway tower, which seems to have stood at a little distance from the west end of the church. Whether St. Swithun, himself a great builder, did anything to the church is unknown, but St. Athelwold (963–84) greatly enlarged it, or, according to the later account, completely rebuilt it. The poetical description of this church by Wolstan, printed in Mabillon's Acta Sanctorum, is unfortunately very obscure, but the church seems to have been finished by Bishop Elphege and to have had a central tower, north and south aisles, perhaps transepts, an eastern apse with a crypt beneath it and a forecourt at the west. The complexity of the building is very much insisted on by the poet, but not in terms which make the matter any clearer; the crypt and tower were the work of Elphege, but probably only as completions of a scheme left unfinished by St. Athelwold. The church was dedicated in 980 and again c. 993, the former date probably marking the completion of as much of the building as would suffice for holding services and the latter the end of the whole work. The tower is described at length and seems to have risen five stories above the roofs, with stair turrets at the angles and a spire crowned by a large gilt weathercock. There was also a large organ, which is the subject of an elaborate description.

Cnut was a great benefactor to Winchester and was buried in the Old Minster in 1035, and Stigand, who gave the great rood in the nave, was also buried there in 1069. But the duration of St. Athelwold's building was short. In 1079 Walkelin the first Norman bishop began the great church which still remains in part, and in 1093 it was far enough advanced to be ready for service. The Saxon church was abandoned on 8 April, St. Swithun's shrine was removed to the new church on 15 July, and on the 16th the workmen began to pull down the old church, leaving nothing but one porticus and the high altar. Next year these also were taken down and many relics of the saints found under the altar. From this record it is evident that the new church was on a different site from the old, and the reference in Rudborne to the chapel on the site of St. Swithun's grave, near the north door of the nave of the church, makes it almost certain that the old church stood to the north of the present nave and perhaps partly on the site of the north transept. The date of the completion of Walkelin's church is nowhere recorded, but the work to be seen at the west end of the nave above the main vault is of early character and probably not later than the first decade of the 12th century. The great tower over the crossing was at any rate finished by 1100, when William Rufus was buried beneath it. It fell in 1107, probably on account of the badness of the foundation (peat overlying gravel), and the adjoining parts of both transepts were reconstructed when the tower was rebuilt. There was a second tower to the church, which was begun and finished in 1200, and as this clearly was not one of those prepared for but never completed at the outer angles of both transepts, it is probably to be connected with the foundations which exist beyond the west end of the present nave.

The first enlargement of Walkelin's plan took place in 1202, when Bishop Godfrey de Lucy began to build the Lady chapel with its flanking chapels and the aisled building from which they open eastwards, the object being clearly to provide not only a Lady chapel but an adequate place for the shrine of St. Swithun, with a procession path round it. The work evidently went on slowly and changes of design are noticeable, but unfortunately from this time the documentary evidence for the church is lamentably deficient and the building itself is its only historian. Walkelin's eastern chapel, with the ambulatory and east ends of the aisles of his presbytery, was destroyed in the 13th century, and early in the 14th century the work of rebuilding the presbytery was begun from the east; there was, however, a break in the work, which was resumed later in the same century and carried as far as the east piers of the tower. This part is probably due to Bishop Edington (1345–66), who at the end of his episcopate was rebuilding the west end of the nave. It is to be presumed that this latter work was undertaken on account of the ruinous state of the west front of Walkelin's church.

Lucy. Gules three luces or.

William of Wykeham (1366–1404) seems to have done some work on the church early in his episcopate, about 1371, but his many other occupations prevented him from paying serious attention to his cathedral till 1393, when he took steps to raise a building fund, ordering the prior, sub-prior and convent to contribute a considerable amount yearly for seven years. In 1394, however, he seems to have undertaken the work of remodelling the nave on his own account and carried it on till his death in 1404, leaving its completion to his successors. The next structural work of any importance was the remodelling of the east bay of the Lady chapel, both bays being revaulted; this belongs to the time of Bishop Courtenay, 1486–92, and the vault of the south-east chapel was rebuilt in the time of his successor Thomas Langton, 1493–1500. The last bishop to make any considerable alteration was Richard Fox, 1500–28, who rebuilt the presbytery aisles with their vaults and the east gable of the presbytery, and added the flying buttresses and the high wooden vault there. He also inclosed the presbytery with stone screens which bear the date 1525.

Since his time the architectural history of Winchester Cathedral has been full of the minor repairs from which such a building is never exempt, but otherwise uneventful, until within the last decade the condition of the eastern part of the church became so unsound that its immediate repair and underpinning was necessary; nor was it found possible to stop there, but the whole of the transepts have now been treated in the same way and the work is being extended to the nave. The foundations, laid originally on the peat, are now being carried down to the gravel below, the whole work being made much more difficult by the fact that the gravel is well beneath the permanent water level of the site.

In spite of the rebuilding of its eastern arm and the remodelling of its nave, the complete plan of Walkelin's church can be laid down, though several details of the elevations must remain doubtful. It had an eastern arm of three bays with north and south aisles, an apse round which the aisles were continued as an ambulatory, square-ended chapels at the east of both aisles, having their east walls in line with the eastern limit of the apse, and beyond the apse to the east an aisleless apsidal chapel. All this is demonstrated by the original crypts which remain practically in perfect condition, and of the upper works the levels of the triforium and clearstory and the springing of the aisle vaults can be deduced from the remains of their western bays against the eastern piers of the central tower. The piers of the main arcade were doubtless like those in the transepts, but the arcade round the apse had large circular columns, the base of one of these remaining in Gardiner's chantry on the north side of the feretory. It is, however, very difficult to understand the design of the square-ended eastern chapels of the aisles, which may have been carried up as towers flanking the junction of the principal eastern chapel with the apse. In this connexion it is interesting to note the evidence of a similar arrangement in the 13th-century east end of the church.

Walkelin's central tower was entirely removed after its fall in 1107, unless parts of its piers remain cased by the 12th-century work of the existing tower, but his transepts remain with no very considerable alteration, with east and west aisles, and tribunes connecting the aisles at the outer end of each transept. The transepts are of three bays, the aisles vaulted with groined vaults, where the original vaults remain, while the main span has been designed for a flat ceiling, but now shows the plain roof timbers. The three stories of the elevation give the effect of being of equal height with each other, though as a matter of fact the main arcade is slightly taller than the triforium, and the triforium than the clearstory. The arches are everywhere square-edged and the capitals simple cushions, the masonry wide-jointed and the tooling coarse, and the attached shafts semicircular or a little more than a semicircle in plan. The main arcade has arches of two orders, the triforium pairs of arches under a single inclosing arch, and the clearstory plain single openings framing single roundheaded windows and flanked by small arches opening from a wall passage. Between the bays a half-round shaft on a pilaster runs to the top of the wall. In the tribunes the main arches are of a single order and have a round column as a middle pier, the wall over the arches ending abruptly at the triforium floor level. A shaft is, however, carried up from the capital of the column, as if some stage to match the triforium had been originally designed, and at either end, where the tribune joins the triforium, a shaft and pilaster are set against the wall face, as between the normal bays, but end just above the level of the triforium capitals. The arrangement is meaningless, and the shaft was never carried up into the clearstory, as the treatment of the arcade opening to the wall passage shows, being here continuous between the main openings. The design of the transepts was altered during the progress of the work, it being proposed to build towers over the end bays of each aisle, and the piers are in consequence strengthened by additional members; but there are evidences of settlements probably caused by the extra weight of the towers, and it is probable that they were never finished. The absolute simplicity and lack of ornamental detail is extremely striking, though on the exterior this severity is relieved by billetornament on the string course below the triforium windows, and on the labels of all the principal windows. The gable of the south transept is also relieved by two tiers of blank arcades; that of the north transept has been rebuilt in the 15th century, and now contains a rose window.

Enough is left of Walkelin's nave, after its transformation by Wykeham, to show that it was of the same general detail as the transepts. In the bays immediately west of the crossing some of the original capitals and shafts have been preserved, no doubt on account of the rood screen and side chapels which were not disturbed during the alterations. The 11th-century masonry has also in many cases been left standing in the piers, but cut back to the later section, the wide joints and smaller stones making it easily distinguishable from Wykeham's masonry. While the arches of the main arcade have been entirely removed, the inclosing arches of the triforium, with the walls above their level, remain almost intact, and above the present vault rise the tops of the shafts and pilasters dividing the bays. An interesting point to be noticed in this connexion is that these shafts occur only in alternate bays, with a few exceptions, as if the alternate shafts had stopped below the level of the clearstory, suggesting an alternate treatment of the bays of the nave, or possibly only of the clearstory, like that in the transepts. Several theories might be adduced, if space allowed. To the west of the nave as it now stands there exist very heavy foundations of a west front consisting of a square building flanked by oblong buildings, the south wall of the south oblong still standing to some height and forming part of a boundary wall to a garden. This has often been explained as a front flanked by two western towers, but it is much more likely that the square is the base of a single tower in the middle of the front, flanked by shallow western transepts; a form of plan akin to those of Ely and Bury St. Edmunds, though less developed, the scheme derived from Saxon prototypes. It is perhaps this single tower which explains the already quoted record of 1200, referred to above, in which case it must be assumed that its upper story was left unfinished until that time. The 11th-century crypt, as already said, remains in very complete condition, vaulted throughout with groined vaults of thickly plastered rubble, having, like other early vaults, ashlar courses at the springing of the groins. The entrances were from the north-west and south-west angles, opening to the west bays of the aisles of the presbytery; the north-west entrance, now opening to the east aisle of the transept, is still in use, and there is an external entrance in the fourth bay of the south aisle of the crypt. The nave of the crypt is vaulted in two spans, with a line of five round columns down the middle; the two western bays are now blocked up with rubble, and have doubtless been so since the fall and rebuilding of the central tower. In each bay are narrow arched openings to the aisles, which have small round-headed windows in each bay, and the eastern chapel is similarly planned with a row of columns down the middle and windows in each bay, being entered from the ambulatory of the crypt by a pair of round-headed arches springing from a central column. The cushion capital is here as in the upper church the usual form, but in some instances, as also once in the transepts, a plain chamfered capital occurs, giving a very archaic look to the work; it is akin to those of the sub-vault to the dorter at Westminster Abbey, which must date from c. 1060.

There are two wells in the crypt, one between the two eastern columns of the central arcade of the nave and one in the south-east chapel. The only structural alterations which have here taken place are the insertion of foundations for the later arcades in the ambulatory and the thickening of the outer walls of the north-east and south-east chapels, this latter apparently in the 12th century. The reason for it must remain doubtful. The 13th-century additions at the east of the church show, as has been noted, several evidences of alteration, and it is a matter of much difficulty, particularly in view of the advanced detail of some parts, to define how much of it is Lucy's work and how much is due to later hands. The western bay of the Lady chapel is demonstrably older than the upper stories of the side chapels or the arcades to the west, and, assuming that the additions were begun from the east, may be taken to be the oldest part now existing. But that the eastern bay of the Lady chapel was also part of the first work may be seen from above the vaults of the side chapels. The outer wall-faces of the west bay are here seen, ashlar faced and with a weathered string course, with the remains of newel stairs at their western angles, the upper parts of which have been destroyed, apparently in consequence of some failure of the building. The east walls of the upper story of the side chapels butt against the ashlar of the Lady chapel, and the string already noted runs into them, and evidently continued into the east bay, though now destroyed by the refacing of the walls. It therefore seems clear that in the original scheme the side chapels were of one story only, and that their carrying up as low towers is a later alteration.

Again, over the south arcade of the building west of the Lady chapel, here called the vestibule, traces remain, but much damaged by the late repairs, of three gabled roofs over the south aisle, with their ridges north and south. The present south elevation of this aisle would accord very badly with such a scheme, and can hardly be coeval with it; its advanced character also suggests a date much later than that of Lucy. The bad quality of the foundation has doubtless caused more, and more serious, alterations than have been recorded, and it is probable that in this fact should be found the key to several difficulties which a study of the building presents.

The Lady chapel has in its east bay seven-light windows on north, south and east of late 15th-century style, and below the windows on the outside two subdivided bays of blank traceried arcading, evidently a reminiscence of the 13th-century arrangement of which traces remain on the north side, not having been destroyed on account of a two-story vestry which formed part of the 15th-century remodelling, and masked all the lower part of the walls here; a flue from its south-west angle still remains, with a blocked doorway from the chapel, and an aumbry close to it. Within the chapel a panelled string runs beneath the windows, having three shields on it in each bay, bearing the arms of the King of England, the Prince of Wales, the see of Winchester and Bishop Courtenay, the rebus of Prior Hunton, and the motto 'In gloriam Dei.' The blocked door on the north, once opening to the vestry, which is now destroyed, has Prior Hunton's rebus in its spandrels. The vault is a fine example, with liernes, and carved bosses at the intersections; the middle boss has a crowned figure of our Lady in clouds surrounded by four angels in a cusped circle. On other bosses are the arms of the king, the see and Bishops Courtenay and Langton, and painted on the vault the names and rebuses of Priors Hunton and Silkstede.

Courtenay. Or three roundels gules and a label azure with a mitre or upon each pendant.

The lower parts of the north and south walls are decorated with a most interesting series of paintings representing the miracles of our Lady, in two tiers; a diagram explaining them is kept in the chapel, and they need not be further noticed here.

The west bay of the chapel has a vault like the east bay, but having the arms of Bishops Beaufort and Wayneflete, as well as the names of the priors as before; the side walls retain their 13th-century details, having above the canopies of the stalls which fill the bay a range of six open arches grouped in pairs under three blank trefoiled heads, while above them is a pierced quatrefoil between two trefoils, with outer rebates for glazing frames, and originally lighted through three arched openings in the outer thickness of the wall. These openings now come beneath the roof of the upper story of the side chapels, as already stated. The lower part of the side walls was originally ornamented with arcades on Purbeck marble shafts, like all the rest of this part of the church, but only the western shafts remain, the rest having been cut away for the stalls. These belong to c. 1500, and are of admirable workmanship; there are eleven places on each side, but without arms and having no misericordes; their backs have two tiers of tracery panels, crowned with a coved cornice and traceried parapet; a gallery runs round at this level and connects with the wall passages in the side chapels. The fronts of the stalls are panelled and buttressed, and the standards have carved finials, and their buttresses end in little pulpits holding figures of preaching cardinals or bishops. The screen closing the west end of the chapel is in seven bays, the middle bay containing double doors; each bay is divided into five lights with tracery, and above is a double cove with pierced parapets forming the gallery front.

Under the Lady chapel is a crypt in three bays, entered from the north, and also by a forced entrance from the west, through the apse of Walkelin's eastern crypt; it has Purbeck marble columns with moulded capitals, and the vault-ribs have plain chamfers. It is lighted by single trefoiled lights, the outer openings of which have been altered at the 15th-century remodelling.

The north-east chapel, known as the 'Guardian Angels' ' chapel, from the paintings of angels on its vault (vault and paintings both being contemporary with the chapel), retains in the lower part of its north wall much of the 13th-century arcading, which originally went round the east and south walls also. It was in five bays with trefoiled arches, and in the spandrels between the arches are oval quatrefoils filled in with Purbeck marble slabs, and probably forming in the first instance the setting for small images. Above is a string of Purbeck marble and a second line of quatrefoils, and the chapel is lighted on the north and east by inserted 15th-century windows, with a wall passage at the level of their sills, opening at the south to the Lady chapel and at the north-west to the stair turret. Below the east window is a 15th-century reredos of seven bays with canopied niches, the northern niche being deeper and taller than the rest, as having held the image of the saint whose altar the chapel contained. Below the niches is a string with shields bearing the emblems of the Passion, the arms of the see and St. George. The altar-space beneath is now filled by one side of the raised tomb of Sir Arnald de Gaveston, with shields of Gaveston, England, Old France, and Castile and Leon; the rest of this tomb with its effigy is in the middle aisle of the vestibule, in the western bay. On the north wall of the chapel is the monument of Bishop Mews, 1684– 1706, with his arms and a mitre and crozier hung over it, and on the south wall the whole surface is occupied by the monument of Richard Weston Lord Portland, lord treasurer to Charles I, with a bronze effigy by Lesueur. The turret stair opens to the chapel at the north-west, having also a west doorway to the vestibule, and in the second bay from the east is a fine original locker, which has had double doors and two tiers of shelves, the upper of marble and the lower of wood. The chapel is closed at the west by a modern wooden screen.

The south-east or Langton chapel contains the Purbeck marble raised tomb of Bishop Langton, 1493– 1500, stripped of its brasses, and has at the east a reredos of seven canopied niches, which probably dates from Langton's general refitting of the chapel. It bears many traces of colour and marks of the images it once held. Below it the wall is plain and shows the place of the altarslab, which was supported on brackets or corbels 6 ft. 6 in. apart. The 13th-century wall arcades on the north and south walls have been cut back and their remains hidden by Langton's panelling, which has a coved cornice with pierced cresting and hanging tracery. The panelling is divided into seven bays by twisted shafts once surmounted by small figures, and below is a continuous seat with a front of pierced tracery. On the woodwork are shields with the arms of Langton impaled by his sees of Winchester and Canterbury, and by a coat bearing three leopards in a border charged with crosses formy fitchy. The screen at the west of the chapel is in five bays, with folding doors in the middle, the lower panels solid and the upper with open tracery. On the panels is repeated the motto 'Laus tibi Criste,' and in one of the upper panels of the doors, the other being broken, are the arms of Langton impaled by the last-mentioned coat, the whole within a garter.

Langton. Or a cross quarterly azure and gules with five roses argent thereon.

The chapel is lighted on the east and south by inserted 15th-century windows, above which on the outside are two tiers of trefoiled arcades, into the lower of which the heads of the inserted 15th-century windows break. The design of the elevation is obviously incomplete, the scheme of carrying up this and the corresponding north-east chapel never having been carried out. Towards the Lady chapel the upper part of this chapel is pierced by four arches under an arcade, which seems to have been blank at first, the arches being cut through to improve the lighting. The vault of this chapel belongs to Langton's time, and bears his device of a tun with TL, and another of a cockatrice on a tun. At the springing of the vault is his motto, 'Laus tibi Criste,' and on the vault are shields with his arms impaled by Canterbury and Salisbury, the monogram of our Lady, the shield with the three leopards in a border, and another of a phoenix above a bridge. At the south-west angle of the chapel is a stair turret corresponding with that in the north-east chapel, but its entrance to the chapel is blocked by Langton's panelling. The details of the stair, the steps of which are carried by a series of pointed arches springing from small corbels, are exceedingly interesting and well wrought.

The vestibule, or three-bay building between the Lady chapel and feretory, though forming part of Lucy's scheme of enlargement, has probably very little work of his time, and has also undergone a good deal of alteration on account of the weakness of its foundations. The external elevations are very simple, a low-pitched roof now covering the building in one span, while the aisles have a plain parapet over a corbel course, and the bays are separated by buttresses, there being in each bay two tall lancet lights flanked by blank arcades of equal height. It is vaulted in three spans, the aisle vaults springing at a lower level than that of the middle span, and having moulded ribs, while those of the middle span have plain chamfers. The main arcades show several differences of detail, marking stages in the work. Their east responds, while ranging in height with the western arches of the north-east and south-east chapels, show differences in detail of bases and capitals and breaks in the masonry, proving them to be of later build, and while the arches of the eastern bay of the main arcades are of similar detail to the western arch of the Lady chapel, the vault ribs of the main span cut into the latter in a way which shows them to be due to a later scheme. The arch section in the second bay is different from that in the first, and again from that in the third bay, while the clustered piers from which the arches spring, with their eight banded shafts and foliate capitals, are entirely of Purbeck marble set in lead joints, except in the western responds, which have been rebuilt in stone at the 14th-century alterations to the presbytery. Round the aisle walls runs the trefoiled arcade with quatrefoils in the spandrels, which occurs in the eastern chapels, and the Purbeck vaulting shafts of the aisles are carried down in front of it; in the same way the shafts of the rear arches of the windows above are carried down in front of the wall passage which runs at the level of the window sills.

As a setting for the shrine of St. Swithun the vestibule must have been a magnificent building, and even now in its despoiled condition it is very effective. It retains a great deal of its mediaeval flooring of glazed tiles, and besides the beautiful chantry chapels of Wayneflete and Beaufort which fill the middle bay of the north and south arcades respectively, the chapels of Gardiner and Fox and the screen of the 'Holy Hole' between them at the west end go far to make up for the loss of the original fittings. In this connexion reference must be made to a number of pieces of a beautiful Purbeck marble screen of c. 1300, found during the late repairs and now in the crypt; it seems most likely that it formed some part of the fittings of this part of the church, though its precise position must for the present be doubtful.

Several other monuments, not in their original positions, are in the vestibule. In the north aisle are those of Bishop Tocliffe 1174–89 or Peter des Roches 1204–38, and Prior William de Basynge, 1295, and on the east wall that of Bishop Aylmer with his arms of Valence, 1262, on a modern base. In the south aisle is the monument of Sir John Clobery, and in the middle aisle that of Sir Arnald de Gaveston, one side of which is now in the northeast chapel, of Bishop de Lucy 1189–1204, and of William de Westekarre, Bishop of Sidon 1456–86.

The Beaufort and Wayneflete chapels have a general resemblance to each other, the latter having doubtless been inspired by the former. Beaufort's is built of Purbeck marble with leaded joints up to the springing of the canopy, and has a wide middle bay with a fan vault between narrower bays vaulted at a lower level. Above the place of the altar at the east end are three large and eight small canopied niches, and on the crown of the middle vault an angel holds the Beaufort arms. The raised tomb is of Purbeck marble, but the effigy is a poor thing of Charles II's time and the shields on the sides of the tomb are repainted.

Wayneflete's chapel is all of stone and somewhat more richly ornamented in consequence; the principal modifications in the design taken from Beaufort's chapel are the more elaborate treatment of the buttresses and the less difference in height between the vaults of the three bays. The original doors and their fittings on either side of the west bay are preserved, and the effigy is also original, of Purbeck marble, on a stone tomb with marble plinth and twisted angle columns. On the crown of the vault are the bishop's own arms held by an angel.

Wayneflete. Lozengy ermine and sable and a chief sable with three garden lilies therein.

The presbytery is of three bays closed by screens on the north and south and at the east by the great altar screen, behind which is the feretory on the site of Walkelin's apse, bounded by a low wall on the east, by Bishop Gardiner's chapel on the north and by Bishop Fox's chapel on the south.

The rebuilding of this part of the church was begun about 1320, the western responds of the 13th-century arcades to the east being rebuilt at the same time. The adaptation of the wider span of the presbytery to that of the vestibule is very skilfully managed, the arches on either side of the feretory being inclined towards each other, in order to fall into the line of the arcades to the east. Walkelin's presbytery was no doubt taken down piece by piece as the work proceeded, and the apse was the first part to be touched; the low wall on the east with the two arches over it, the piers and arch to the north of the feretory, and the walls over them, are clearly earlier in date than the rest of the 14th-century work. There seems to have been a considerable break in the work, for the three bays on either side of the presbytery and the arch on the south of the feretory do not look earlier than the middle of the 14th century. The window tracery in the clearstory is of very plain character and difficult to date, but, except in the eastern bay on the north side, is probably contemporary with the walls in which it is set. The treatment of the points of the cusps is the same as that in the west end of the nave, in the work attributed to Bishop Edington about 1360, and this is approximately the time to which it must be assigned. The east wall of this part of the church was rebuilt from the springing of the vaults by Bishop Fox about 1500, at the time when he was rebuilding the north and south aisles; the high vault is also of his time and the flying buttresses over the aisle roofs.

The great altar screen has been attributed to the time of Bishop Beaufort, but probably belongs to the latter part of the 15th century, like the similar screen at St. Albans. It is in three stages with a cresting of pierced stonework and in the middle, over the rood which forms the centre of the design, a spirelet of the most elaborate tracery work, from which the pyx was suspended over the high altar. In modern times the whole has been much restored and the various niches filled with figures, on the whole very successfully. On either side of the altar are doorways leading to the feretory. This, which seems also to have been called the Holy Hole, contains a 13th-century platform ascended by steps at either end, where the bases of pillars show that some canopy or superstructure once existed. It was doubtless on this that the small shrines containing the bones of kings and princes formerly rested, visible over the low screen which stood behind the high altar. The addition of the great screen now existing hid them from view, until Bishop Fox set up the stone screens on either side of the presbytery and placed them on it. The feretory is now used as a storehouse for the best of the fragments of mediaeval sculpture, &c., which have been found on the site; there is a very fine 13th-century figure, but the most remarkable objects are a set of heads, perhaps of late 14th-century date, about life size, and of most admirable workmanship. A late 13th-century oak chest with painted decoration is also of much interest. The east wall of the feretory has on its outer face a very beautiful arcade of nine gabled canopies, c. 1320, with two pedestals in each canopy with the names of the figures which once stood on them, and the inscription:
'Corpora sanctorum sunt hic in pace sepulta;
Ex meritis quorum fulgent miracula multa.'
The two middle figures were those of Christ and His mother, the others those of the early kings who were connected with the history of the cathedral, of Queen Emma, St. Birinus and Bishop Alwin. Below the middle canopy is a low arch through which can be seen a Romanesque arch, probably the substructure of the bishop's seat set in the middle of the apse of Walkelin's church.

The chapel of Bishop Gardiner, 1531–55, is Gothic in form but full of Italian detail, the window tracery and panelled vaults alone showing no trace of foreign influence. The building is in two divisions, the tomb-chapel and a vestry to the east of it. Over the altar-place in the chapel is a round-headed niche with Ionic pilasters and cornice, between a pair of niches with figures of the Church and the Synagogue, and on a panel below the middle niche are Gardiner's initials, S. G. The vestry has had glass in its windows, but those of the chapel were never glazed. On the vault are the arms of Gardiner and of the see, and the griffons' heads of his arms occur as finials in the strapwork cresting above the cornice of the chapel. Below the chapel and opening to the north aisle is a low arched recess in which lies a 'cadaver,' now much damaged. Fox's chapel, 1500–28, has, like Gardiner's chapel, a small vestry at the east and a recess beneath the chapel proper with a 'cadaver,' and doubtless inspired the designer of the later building. The chapel is of the finest and most elaborate late Gothic detail, with no trace of Italian influence except in the small brackets on which the arcaded panelling rests at the base of the walls. The vestry windows are grooved for glass and on the north side of the vestry one bay of the 14th-century screen, closing the feretory on the east, is included, and owing to its protected position shows traces of painting which do not occur elsewhere on the screen.

Gardiner. Argent a cross sable between four griffons' heads razed azure with a garden lily argent upon the cross.

Fox. Azure a pelican or.

Over the altar-place in the chapel are three large niches and sixteen smaller ones, a band of angels with shields having the emblems of the Passion upon them, and the arms of Fox impaled by the see of Winchester at either side. Over the panelled recess above the site of the altar is an inscription:

'O sacrum [convivium in] quo Christus sumitur.'

On the chapel vault are the royal arms supported by a red dragon and a silver greyhound, the arms of Fox, Durham and Winchester, and Fox's badge of a polican occurs constantly. His motto 'Est Deo gracia' is in the spandrels of the doorway.

The screens closing in the presbytery, which bear the date 1525, are of late Gothic design with pairs of four-light traceried openings in each bay except the west, where there are doorways, the upper entrances to the quire; but the cornice of the screens is of fine Italian work, that on the south being rather richer than the other. On the bedmould of the cornice is a series of shields carved with the arms of the see, the arms, badge and motto of Bishop Fox, and other shields bearing a cheveron between three owls with a rose on the cheveron, the arms of Hugh Oldham. Bishop of Exeter, co-founder with Fox of Corpus Christi College at Oxford, a cheveron between three cinqfoils with three bezants on the cheveron, the arms of Edward the Confessor, of St. George, of King Henry VIII, a cheveron between three swans with a rose on the cheveron, emblems of the Passion, the motto of Cardinal Beaufort 'In Domino confido,' and the initials W. F. and H. B., for William Frost, Steward, and Henry Broke, Prior, and motto 'Sit laus Deo.'

Of the six chests which stand on the screens and contain the bones purporting to be those of the kings of Wessex, Kynegils and Kenulf, with their successors the Saxon kings of England, Egbert, Ethelwulf, Edmund and Edred, with Cnut, Queen Emma and William Rufus, and Bishops Wina and Alwin, four belong to Fox's time and the two in the western bay are copies made in 1661. But older chests, of 15th-century date, are inclosed in those which are now to be seen. The bones are jumbled together and quite impossible to identify, having been scattered in 1642 and probably disturbed on more than one previous occasion. Indeed, it is clear that this confusion began in the 12th century, when Bishop Henry of Blois collected the bones from the site of the Saxon church and put them into lead coffins in the feretory. Other bones were deposited by Fox in the base of the presbytery screens, as the inscriptions show, as Harthacnut, Edmund, Richard Duke of Beorn, and the heart of Bishop Nicholas de Ely. Bishop Richard Tocliffe, 1189, and John of Pontoise, 1304, are buried in this part of the church, and Bishop Courtenay, 1486–92, has a modern monument, with part of the original lead coffin set in it.

The east gable of the presbytery is the work of Bishop Fox and contains a seven-light window, flanked by angle turrets, the gable being enriched with panelling and finished by a canopied niche. The presbytery vault is of wood, and also of Fox's time, and has a series of carved and painted bosses, with the emblems of the Passion, the arms of St. Edmund and St. Edward, of Henry VII and Prince Arthur impaling the royal arms of Spain, which dates the work to about 1502, of Bishop Fox impaled by the sees of Bath and Wells, Exeter, the arms of these sees separately, Durham and Winchester, the initials and badges of Henry VII, and the initials of Prior Silkstede.

In the aisles the vaults are of stone and of the same period, the bosses bearing devices showing that they belong to Fox's work. The aisle windows are of four lights with a transom and have segmental heads like those in the nave, the rest of the wall surface on the inside being filled with panelling; in the western bay on either side the windows are partly overlapped by the eastern chapels of the transepts.

The transepts, as has been said, preserve Walkelin's design in all its essentials, though the parts nearest the central tower have been rebuilt after its fall in 1106 and are easily distinguished from the rest by the finer tooling and jointing of the masonry. The later alterations consist for the most part in the insertion of 14th and 15th-century windows in the original openings, but in the north transept the outer face of the west clearstory has been rebuilt, probably late in the 15th century, to harmonize with the nave, and the north gable has also been rebuilt and a round window with radiating tracery set in it. The north transept has been stripped of its screens and fittings, but in the western arch of the central of the three eastern chapels two fine early 14th-century canopied niches remain, cutting off the lower parts of the shafts of the arch. An original outer entrance to this transept, now blocked, is to be seen in the south bay of the west aisle; the position is unusual, but being on the side away from the monastic buildings, it probably served, as at St. Albans, as an entrance for townsfolk and strangers. In the south transept the aisles are still screened off from the body of the transept and are now used as chapter-house and vestries. The north bay of the west aisle is inclosed by solid masonry walls of late 12th-century date, doubtless the work of Henry of Blois, but of different detail from anything else in the church, having in each arch two bays of blank arcades with richly ornamented arches and a fluted pilaster in the middle continued above the arches. In the east arch the arcades are elliptical or bluntly-pointed, the space being too narrow for semicircular arches. The return of the aisle across the south end of the transept is masked by panelled woodwork with a continuous seat and cornice dating from the time of Prior Silkstede and bearing his initials T. S. and T. P. (for Thomas Prior), the date 1516 and the arms of the see. The screen is returned at the west for one bay northward and over the door leading into the western aisle— now used as the chapter-house—is a shield bearing a millrind cross. The north-east chapel is inclosed at the west by a 15th-century stone screen, the openings of which are filled with admirable 18th-century ironwork, bearing the arms: Argent on a cheveron sable three trefoils or. The east window, c. 1320, is of three lights with a little old heraldic glass and on the south is a 15th-century wooden screen on a stone base. The adjoining chapel to the south, known as Silkstede's chapel, has a 15th-century stone screen at the west, the net tracery in its upper lights giving it an earlier look than the rest of the details warrant; the cornice seems to have been altered in the 16th century and bears the name of Thomas S(ilkstede). The east window is of five lights, c. 1300, and below it the wall is painted, with traces of finely drawn canopies flanked by pinnacles and having figure subjects beneath. The line of the altar slab is to be seen and on either side of it, 9 ft. apart, are Purbeck marble shafts 4 ft. high, set against the wall. In this chapel is the gravestone of Isaac Walton, 1683, with an inscription composed by Bishop Ken. The third of the eastern chapels has a large 15th-century east window of five lights, taking up the whole of the east wall. At the south-east angle is the stair to the triforium and in the south wall an original window, now blocked by the library, a 17th-century building set over the slype. The west wall is of 18th-century date and on the north side is a mutilated 15th-century screen on a stone base.

The central tower is of three stages, rising only one stage above the ridges of the roofs and was designed as a lantern, open to the roof of the top stage; its internal effect is quite spoilt by the insertion of a wooden vault early in the 17th century (1634) at the level of the crossing arches. The piers of the crossing are very massive and perhaps inclose those of Walkelin's tower. The crossing arches are plain and square-edged, but the stories over them have tall arcades with groups of shafts and arches enriched with zigzag and billet ornament. There are four of these on each side of the interior of the second stage and in the third stage three tall round-headed windows on each side, with blank arcades between and at sill level a passage masked by open arcades below the piers separating the windows. Externally these windows are of three orders with shafted jambs and billet-moulded labels, with zigzag on one order of the arch. The parapets are plain and modern and there is no evidence of the original finish of the tower, which is very low and inconspicuous in comparison with other English central towers. Its rebuilders were doubtless distrustful of its foundations and it was clearly not designed to carry bells. The space under the tower and the first bay of the nave is taken up by the stalls, which date largely from the end of the 13th century and are a magnificent piece of woodwork. There are sixty-two seats in the upper row, ten being return stalls at the west and the canopies, except those added at the west when the stone pulpitum, a fine early 17th-century work, was destroyed, are in the main original and have tall traceried and gabled heads on slender shafts, the back panelling being arcaded in two tiers, with spandrels carved with extremely beautiful naturalistic foliage. Between the canopies are pinnacles of which nearly all belong to Bishop Morley's time, c. 1670. The lower rows of seats have carved fronts of c. 1540 with the arms of Dean Kingsmill, Bishop Gardiner and Henry VIII. The misericordes are of the date of the stalls and at the east end of the north row of stalls is the canopied pulpit made by Prior Silkstede, with the twisted skeins of silk in its tracery which he used as a play on his name. Opposite to it is the modern bishop's throne. In the middle of the quire is the early coped tomb commonly called that of William Rufus, but most probably belonging to Bishop Henry of Blois, 1171.

One bay west of the stalls and pulpitum stood the rood screen, with a platform and steps in front of it as now, though the screen has been destroyed. On either side of the steps were chapels, and that the screen and chapels were not disturbed at the time of Wykeham's alterations is clear from the shafts and capitals of Walkelin's nave which are preserved in the eastern bays of the north arcade and clearly owe their preservation to the fact that they were masked by woodwork when the rest of the nave was being remodelled. In the tower arches north and south of the quire were other chapels, and that on the north, the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, is a very fine late 12th-century work in two vaulted bays, preserving a great deal of its original colour decoration. The subjects form a complete series of the events in the history of our Lord, from the Annunciation to the Resurrection and have been fully described in the Proceedings of the British Archaeological Association for 1845 by Mr. J. G. Waller.

Above this chapel is the organ, nearly filling the whole space under the crossing arch, and opposite to it on the south side of the quire is a modern stone screen and arch inclosing the monument of Sir Isaac Townsend, 1731, and flanked by stairs leading to a gallery at the level of the canopies of the stalls. In front of the screen stands a very solid oak bench with carved finials, the date of which is still in dispute, but has been considered as early as the 12th century.

The nave is of twelve bays, and is a magnificent work in spite of its lack of the original colour in the windows, having all the decorative effect of the later Gothic with none of its weakness. This is to some degree conditioned by the retention of the Romanesque masonry of the piers, but all the detail is very bold and vigorous, and the lines of the high vault entirely dispel any effect of heaviness which the depth of the ribs and the scale of the bosses might be expected to produce. A few of the bosses of the nave and aisles have shields of arms upon them, among which will be noticed the arms of Edward III, 'the shield for peace' of the Black Prince, William of Wykeham's cheverons and roses, the keys and sword of the see, the cross and martlets attributed to Edward the Confessor and the cross of St. George. The arches of the main arcades are four-centred, and have panelled spandrels over which runs a cornice with large carved paterae carrying an open parapet at the base of the clearstory. The clearstory windows are of three cinquefoiled lights with cusped oval openings in the tracery above, and have segmental arches flanked by panelled wall surfaces. A line of cinquefoiled panelling runs below the window sills, and in the lower parts of the panels are openings to the space over the aisle vaults, from which the heavy flying buttresses which take the thrust of the high vaults can be seen. The aisle windows are of the same character as those of the clearstory but taller, and have transoms dividing the main lights; below them are tall cinquefoiled panels, into which a second series of cinquefoiled heads has been inserted in modern times to serve as framing for the monuments with which the walls are quickly becoming covered.

The external elevations are very plain, the parapets being unbroken and having strings with paterae at their bases, while the buttresses are stepped and have in the aisles tall crocketed pinnacles, the flying arches of the high vaults not showing above the aisle roofs, which are of low pitch and leaded. The roofs of the main span are remarkable for the size of their tie-beams, the span being 34 ft. They are of oak, and have a maximum depth of 24 in., and may well be part of Walkelin's roof cut from Hempage wood. The roof is of high pitch and has lately been repaired and strengthened, the old arrangement of timbers being preserved. The entrances to the nave are by three doorways on the west, one in the north side of the west bay of the north aisle, and four in the south aisle. Two of these south doors are the normal east and west doors from the cloisters; the east door is of Wykeham's time, but the west, which is blocked and mutilated, is part of the original work of the nave. The third south door is of Wykeham's time, and is in the fifth bay of the aisle, and there is a blocked 16th-century door in the bay next west of the west cloister door.

The north door is inclosed by a beautiful 13th-century iron grate, and is known as St. Swithun's door. It opens to the site of a chapel set against the two west bays of the north aisle, and is supposed to mark the site of St. Swithun's first burial-place to the west of the Saxon minster.

The two bays in question, together with the west front of the nave and one bay of the south aisle, belong to the rebuilding attributed to Bishop Edington, and it is probable that the north-west chapel was pulled down in consequence of this rebuilding. The whole west front of the Romanesque church must have been very ruinous at the time and was completely destroyed as far as the tower and its transepts (if such they were) were concerned, a part only of the south-west transept wall being left standing to form a boundary wall of what is now one of the prebendal houses. The present west front is not very successful or worthy of its position. The vertical and horizontal lines of the great west window of nine lights and five tiers of transoms are repeated in the panelling with which the gable above and the flanking pinnacles are covered, and in the pierced parapet over the three rather insignificant porches to which the west doors open. The doorways are small and narrow, single in the aisle and double in the nave, with elaborate cusped heads; the porches have vaulted ceilings and panelled walls, but the general effect is monotonous and undistinguished. The aisle windows are of four lights with very simple tracery, and the buttresses finish with square traceried and crocketed pinnacles. The large pinnacles which flank the nave gable end in stone spirelets, and on the apex of the gable is set a crocketed niche containing a figure of St. Swithun, lately renewed.

The great west window is filled with fragments of 15th-century glass collected from the nave windows, and with the exception of the east window of the presbytery, where Bishop Fox's glass remains, though a good deal restored, is the only considerable survival of the old glass with which the cathedral was once filled. The most important tomb in the nave is that of Bishop William of Wykeham, which takes the place of the normal arch in the eighth bay of the south arcade, rising to the level of the clearstory passage. It has canted angles at each end adjoining the piers of the arcade and three tall open bays on each side with traceried heads and pierced screenwork filling the lower parts. The east end of the tomb chapel has tiers of canopied niches, now filled with modern statuary to commemorate the fivehundredth year of Winchester College. The altartomb of Wykeham, with his effigy, is in very perfect condition; the brass inscription round its edge preserving its original enamel ground though the heraldry has been repainted. The bishop is in mass vestments, and at his feet are three academics, perhaps his executors John Elmers, Nicholas Wykeham and John de Campeden. In the third bay of the south arcade is the tomb-chapel of Bishop Edington, 1366, which is of distinctly earlier style than the work attributed to him at the west end of the nave. It has a cornice with trefoiled cresting of unusual character and two tiers of open traceried panelling on each side, with north and south doors. The effigy is in good condition, and the raised tomb retains the enamel ground of its marginal inscription like that of Wykeham. Opposite to Edington's tomb is that of Bishop Morley, a flat slab with arms and inscription.

Edington. Or a cross engrailed gules with five cinqfoils or thereon.

The nave pulpit is 17th-century work, and was formerly in New College Chapel, Oxford.

The font stands in the seventh bay of the north arcade, and is one of the black Tournai marble fonts of mid-12th-century date, of which seven exist in England. Carved on it are four scenes from the legend of St. Nicholas, taking up two of the four faces of the bowl; the other two faces have each three circles inclosing doves, or in one instance a lion.

There are twelve bells in the tower, the three oldest dating only from 1734.

The plate consists of two chalices, two patens, two flagons and an almsdish, all silver gilt, of 1792; two chalices and two patens of 1884 and a flagon of 1887, also silver gilt. There are also four plated alms-plates.

The registers are in one volume, which contains baptisms and burials 1599 to 1812 and marriages 1603 to 1754. There are gaps in the baptisms 1642 to 1665 and 1666 to 1670 and in the marriages 1641 to 1670. The burials 1665 to 1666 are wanting. On the fly-leaf are the names of six persons buried in the cathedral 1580 to 1598.


The cloister lay on the south side of the church, but is entirely destroyed, though its square can be recovered. It was not vaulted, and the only traces of it left on the church walls are some vertical chases for timbers. The southern range of claustral buildings, in which the frater stood, is all destroyed except a small piece at the west of 13th-century date, which was probably part of the kitchen, and adjoining it on the north-west is the only remaining part of the western range, also of the 13th century, stone-vaulted on the ground story in three bays, but so altered in the upper story in the 16th century that nothing but traces of a south window, with a pretty circular traceried opening in the gable above, are now to be seen. It is now used as a house, and contains some good panelling and heraldic glass, and a very interesting relic in the shape of two 13th-century supports for one of the tables in the frater, now serving to support a wooden table-top.

The eastern range of claustral buildings, though better preserved than the rest, is but fragmentary. The cemetery passage at the south end of the south transept is of Walkelin's date, but its upper part was rebuilt in the 17th century when the library was put upon it, and much of its original masonry is now being cased in modern stone to buttress the transept. The chapter-house, immediately to the south, is also of Walkelin's time, and was a rectangle 88 ft. by 38 ft., covered with a barrel vault of stone, and having on the north, south and east a round arched wall arcade with shafts and cushion capitals, but only the arcade on the north wall now remains. At the west five round-headed arches on large circular columns with cushion capitals opened to the cloister, the middle arch being wider and higher than the rest, and these still remain perfect, a most valuable example of the arrangement of an 11th-century chapter-house entrance. The great dorter, running east and west, adjoined the chapter-house on the south, and its doorway to the cloister, a 13th-century insertion with Purbeck marble tympanum and jambs, opens to the north-west corner of its ground story. No traces of a stair to the upper floor exist. On the south side of the ground story are remains of several windows of good 12th-century detail, c. 1160, at which date the range may have been rebuilt. The 12th-century drain of the reredorter, running east and west, has been uncovered to the east of this site.

South of the dorter is the best preserved part of the range—namely, the prior's house, now the deanery, with a fine 15th-century hall on the west side, now divided into two stories, but retaining its original open-timbered roof and traceried west windows. The entrance to the deanery is on the south, and to the east of the hall, and is of fine 13th-century work, with a vaulted vestibule of three bays opening by three arches to the close, with a trefoiled wall arcade with pointed sub-arches on the east. The rest of the house has been much altered in later times and contains some good panelling; on the north-east a late 17th-century two-story building has been added, having a library on the upper floor and an open arcade beneath. The dean's stables, to the south-east, are part of a fine 14th-century wooden hall with an open roof.

To the south-west of the site of the cloister is Dome Alley, two rows of fine early 17th-century brick houses facing on to a narrow lane which ends westward in a small round gravelled space. The lead work of the gutters and down pipes is very good, as well as the details of the brick cornices. It has been suggested that the lane represents the hall of the monastic infirmary and the houses its aisles, but no definite evidence exists.

West of the church in the north wall of the garden of the house now occupied by the Archdeacon of Winchester are remains of a 14th-century charnel chapel. The boundary walls of the precinct exist on the south in a very perfect state, and less perfectly on the west and east; traces of a west gate are to be seen, and the south gate, opening westward close to Kingsgate in the city walls, is well-preserved 13th-century work. Eastward from this point the town and precinct walls coincide, and immediately within the south gate is the picturesque house known as Cheyney Court, already described. No other building within the close dates back before the suppression of the monastery, but the other prebendal houses are mostly of 17th and 18th-century date, chiefly of red brick, and for the most part harmonizing very well with their surroundings.

In the precinct wall to the north-east of the church are built in several of the small columns which also occur in the masonry of Wolvesey Castle, and have been supposed to be from the cloister of the New Minster, destroyed on its removal to Hyde in 1110.


  • 1. Acta Sanctorum, July, s.v.